A tutorial for painting stripes on walls. This step-by-step guide gives all the best tips for painting both horizontal and vertical stripes without bleeding. From accent walls to a single horizontal stripe, you can be confident in getting perfectly crisp paint edging lines!
I’ve been working on our son’s room and he is moving up into his pre-teen years, so it’s makeover time! There are few motifs that have as many possibilities as the classic stripe, so we put a racecar style stripe across his room. I love how fun and really cool his bedroom is going to be.
Over the years, we have done hundreds of painting projects, from mudding walls to whole stenciled rooms, we have learned a ton of tips over the years. Whether you choose vertical or horizontal stripes, thick or thin, or different sheens, this step-by-step guide will have you painting crisp paint lines in no time!
With the right tips and tools, this is also a foolproof beginner project. These tips also work great for edging ceilings, accent walls, or fun mosaic designs.
- 1-inch-wide Painter’s Tape – Green Frog Tape or Scotch Blue Ultra Sharp Lines Tape
- Paint brush, foam roller, or other roller that applies thin coats.
- A four-foot Level or Laser Level
- Measuring tape
- Hanging Strips Optional, this was for our design.
- Cardboard hollow Letters Optional, this was just for our design.
What Tape to Use for Painting Crisp Lines?
Painter’s tape has improved a lot in the last few years. While Green Frog Tape is still highly recommended, Scotch Blue has improved their Ultra Sharp Tape and Sharp Tape lines. In our real-world tests, they are almost imperceptible in the ability to make crisp lines. Frog tape sometimes prevents bleeding slightly better than the Sharp, but the Ultra Sharp releases better with less chipping or tearing, especially for Satin or high gloss paint.
This is my personal opinion, but never use the Scotch Blue Original or Scotch Blue that is made to stretch. I strongly despise this stretchy tape. I haven’t seen it recently, which is why I can’t show an example. However, if you look at the tape itself, it looks slightly wrinkled like it is made to stretch.
How To Paint Stripes on a Wall
Many people don’t realize that walls are not straight. Even if the drywall is put up perfectly straight, the mudding in the corners is never going to be perfect. With long walls, it is very common to find large dips or bumps.
Step 1: Paint Your Base Color
You can paint the base (lighter color or flatter sheen) first across the entire wall, including the stencil area.
Step 2: Mark Your Lines
The most ideal way to make a straight line is with a laser level and mark with pencil. If you don’t have one, you can measure down from the ceiling for horizontal lines and use a level to remove any noticeable dips or bows. For vertical lines, a long level is a great tool.
To get a perfectly even stripes in my design, I spaced the lines using a 1-inch strip of tape, then peeled the middle strip off. It saved a lot of time measuring!
Tips for laying tape:
- Use long sections (1 whole strip if you can). Doing 18-24+ inches at a time will give you much more even lines that look visually straighter than short sections.
- Cut corners at 45 degrees with scissors. This design has 90 degree turns in it. For the sharpest corners, cut the tape with scissors rather than tearing it.
- Overlap new sections. If you have to use more than 1 piece of tape for a single line, overlap the new section by about an inch and do your best to line up the edges.
Step 3: Paint Your Design
To get a truly crisp line, make sure to burnish the edges. Burnishing is just a fancy way of saying to rub your finger along the edge to lock it to the surface. This is especially important if you have any texture in your walls at all.
You can use a small foam roller or a paint brush. I recommend thin coats because the moisture from thick coats can sometimes cause paper tape to release prematurely or buckle.
Pro Tip*: Burnishing edges is especially important if you have textured walls. If the texture is heavy, you may find it best to paint the existing color over the tape, allow to dry, and then paint the accent color for the best possible lines. This will fill in any areas that may bleed.
Step 4: Pulling the Tape
I usually try to pull the tape when the paint is still fully wet. Especially for satin or high gloss paints, if the paint becomes tacky, let it dry for several hours before pulling. Paint that dries on top but wet underneath is more likely to pull away.
If you used more than 1 piece of tape to make a line, pull from where you first taped. Then, you can pull it all in one section.
Pull the tape back on itself and slightly at an angle away from your desired crisp line.
To make the vertical lines, I used a level to make a straight line perpendicular to the ceiling.
Look at that! Clean, crisp lines.
Lastly, I painted some hollow cardboard letters the same red paint as the stripe. I used the hanging strips and put them near the edge so that if they needed removal, I could grab the tape with pliers.
I am extremely happy with how it turned out. When I painted the first outside lines, I did get skeptical that it would be too bold, but hubby insisted I finish, and I am glad I did. Sometimes, you should listen to the wisdom of your loved ones. (If he is reading this, he probably just fainted because yes, honey, you were right).
More Boy Bedroom projects
- World Map Wall Art (with free files!)
- A Stylish Kid’s Closet with Book Storage
- Building A Custom Closet in A Day
- Easy Kid’s Art Display Ideas
While green Frog Tape is still highly recommended, Scotch Blue has improved their Ultra Sharp Tape and Sharp Tape lines. In our real-world tests, they are almost imperceptible in the ability to make crisp lines. Frog tape prevents bleeding a tiny bit better than Scotch, but the Ultra Sharp releases better with less chipping or tearing.
The width of stripes is completely up to you, but most commonly between 4-12 inches wide for the main stripes. You can also vary the width between the two colors (1-inch-wide accent stripe followed by 12-inch base for example) for a unique look.
If your stripes are evenly spaced, measure the wall (width for vertical, height for horizontal), and divide the measurement by your stripe width. If your stripes are not evenly spaced, divide the wall measurement by the measurement of both stripes. This will give you how many stripe sections you will have.
There are two reasons paint will pull off with tape: the paint under the tape did not fully dry, or the paint wasn’t well bonded to the wall. Fresh paint under seven days old is often not dry all the way through. Lower quality paints are more likely to pull away. Another common mistake is not priming a surface, particularly if you patch with spackle or mud a corner. These must be primed and paint + primer does not count.
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How To Paint Wall Stripes
- Paint Brush
- Foam Roller
- Handi Pail optional
- Painter's Tape *See Note for Brands
- Paint your base coat. This should either be the main color or the lightest and flattest color. For instance, if you are painting a flat color and a satin, paint the flat first all over the wall. Paint should dry at least a few days, but 7+ is optimal especially for high gloss or cheap paints.
- Mark your Lines. Mark Your Lines with Pencil. The most ideal way to make a straight line is with a laser level and mark with pencil. If you don't have one, you can measure down from the ceiling for horizontal lines and use a level to remove any noticeable dips or bows. For vertical lines, a level is a great tool.
- Tape along the outside lines. Work in long sections, at least 18 inches, to get visually straight lines. If your lines have corners, use scissors to cut the corners rather than tearing.
- Paint the accent color. Make sure to burnish edges just before painting to eliminate bleed through. Use a brush or foam roller to add thin coats.
- Remove the tape. For satin or high gloss paints, don't remove while the paint is tacky. This makes the paint more likely to stretch and ruin the crisp line. Pull the tape back on itself, at an angle away from the line, and gently pull. Use a razor knife or box cutters to release the tape from trouble spots.
- Allow to Dry. You can touch up any areas needed after the paint is entirely dry.